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June 25, 2019

Importance of microfilming in Archives

By Dr, Ohnmar Lin (Archives)

In 1790, Archives Nationales ( National Archives) are thought to have originated in France where the French Revolution was waging a war against the monarchy. As the Revolution was a period of time, the national documents were kept by the Archives Act of the government. In 1835 under the reign of Queen Victoria of England, Public Records Act was promulgated to set up the National Archives. National Archives were set up in Russia in 1918 despite the financial difficulties after the Russian Revolution. National Archives were set up in the United States in 1934 despite economic crises between 1929 to 1935.
The earliest establishment of National Archives in Asia started in the Philippines in 1892. National Archives in India were established in
1891 by sending a telegram even though national archives in the world were normally established by the respective National Archives Acts. In Myanmar, National Archives Act was promulgated on 15 March, 1972 under the Revolutionary Council Order No. 97 by the Ministry of National Planning and Finance at the Office of Ministries( Old Secretariat).

The meaning of archives
The meaning of archives is defined as follows:
1. Organic character
2. Non-current
3. Official character
4. Creating agency
5. Official custody
6. Permanent preservation and
7. Future use
Preservation and perusal of archives With modern technological advancements in the world, National Archives in many countries have processed data electronically. Therefore Automatic Data Processing and machine-readable records are carried out for reading by means of computers. Old documents which were kept for almost a century have become fainted in words, letting researchers read valuable archives by means of machine readers rather than with their naked eyes.
As the typewriters were invented in 18th century and it was followed by the emergence of reprography. From there on, the innovations of gestetners, copying machines and Photostats have continued step-by-step. The emergence of photography in 19th century was relatively a recent innovation among other things.

Microfilming
Microfilming , a process of photographic reproduction of documents and images to be kept in the Archives, was believed to have started during World War One. At that time , carrier pigeons were used to send messages from one place to the other; messages tied to the pigeon’s leg or neck were usually sent and easily seen by enemies who intercepted these pigeons , thereby destroying the messages on the way. So, messages sent by means of microfilming came to the fore; messages in microfilms were received in full. Microfilming was thus essential for archives for security reasons.

Reprography
The Department for National Archives in many countries has used reprography for reproduction and duplication of documents, written materials , drawings, designs and microfiches by using light rays or photographic means including offset printing , microfilming and photography. Written documents have become yellowish and rotted away gradually due to oxidation with acid oozed out from the writing paper.
In the production of wood pulp , alum and resins of pine trees are used to make smooth writing papers, thereby creating acidic conditions. Besides, when papers are exposed to light, they naturally become brittle. Therefore written words have become too fainted for researchers to read. Even written words on sheets of paper have been preserved for one hundred years and storage by microfilming could last as long as 500 years.

Microfilms
There are two types of microfilms : a negative film and a positive film. Master Negative film is black at the background with white words on it ; that is known as an original film. Negative film is used for duplication whereas positive film is used in offices and by the researchers; the film is white with black words on it. The length of microfilms is from 100 to 1000 feet long and 8mm, 16mm, 35mm and 105mm wide. They have no perforations on either sides of them. The microfilms used in the National Archives are 16mm and 35mm wide respectively. A roll of 16mm microfilm with a length of 100 feet can make as many as 2000 exposures whereas a 35mm microfilm with a length of 100 feet can only make as many as 1000 exposures.

Advantages of microfilms
If researchers use the documents and records in National Archives repeatedly, these records get sometimes shattered. As there is the original one only and if it is accidentally damaged, it is hard to substitute it. The volume of archives is too big to accommodate in a place. So, microfilming for preservations of National Archives could help to create an easy accommodation of long duration, easy photocopying, preventing dangers from people, viruses and natural disasters. The sizes of the archives can be reduced on microfilms.
Microfilms, microfiches, cassettes, tapes, oral history, videos, compact discs, gramophone records, slide films and non-paper archives are normally stored in the Department of National Archives. Local and international researchers can easily download data from microfilm and microfiche machines and National Archives Information System by using database.

Microfilms are still in need
By keeping up with advanced technologies, changing from a system of using papers to digitization, microfilming has been authentically guaranteed for many years. Therefore international archives have preserved original documents on microfilming. Some archives have changed digital formats into microfilming by using archives writer with a processing mechanism.
Information technology and photocopying are widely used in offices and private businesses whereas microfilming is rarely used . Microfilming is still widely used in the National Archives of the advanced countries. The potentials of electronic systems should be used effectively for our departments concerned and people and the country in keeping up the times.
Archives are to store original documents of political, economic, social and cultural heritage of the successive era of a country. These documents are invaluable and cannot be created either; they are genuine treasure troves of a country. Myanmar National Archives store invaluable historical records, national archives records and historical evidences of government machinery, thereby highlighting how microfilming plays an important part in preservation of the above evidences and records for our country.

Translated by Arakan Sein

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